It’s been a lazy bank holiday weekend in Aberdeen: between doing a full clean of the house and slobbing we haven’t really achieved (or done) anything. Oh well, we won’t be able to do this quite as much when Dossy arrives, so we’ll enjoy it whilst the quiet lasts!
Well, I lie; one thing has been rather exciting this weekend. We saw another sheltie in Aberdeen! He was a beautiful sable boy, by the name of Jasper. He was a little bit on the nervous side- his owner’s mentioned that he was a rescue from a couple that had him as a pup only to split up a month later- I can only imagine what that did to the poor boy. Honestly, I'd wish people would THINK before they buy a puppy: I'm sure situation's like this could avoided if they did. On the other side of the coin, his new owner’s spoil him rotten, so much so that I have to say he was ever so slightly on the podgy side- oh dear. He was absolutely stunning though, they’d groomed him to perfection, and he looked so happy sitting next to his Mummy. Coming back home, my cheeks hurt from smiling like a loon, it’s so nice to see what we’ll have soon in the flesh: they (rather surprisingly) seem to be a rare breed up here. Between the staffies, Dalmatians, the plethora of Labradors and the liquorice all-sorts of small dogs we’ve only met three shelties.
It’s almost as if the breed has fallen out of fashion, ten years ago at the seaside shelties were the dog of choice for most ‘older’ couples. It’s funny how time changes things sometimes.
Oh well, right back on topic, I’ve started my ‘mission- Dossie socialisation’ chart today, so I thought I’d talk about early socialisation. When I first started researching raising puppies, I tripped over one of the most influential (or at least he will be to Dossie’s life) trainers I have read to date. Ian Dunbar’s how to raise a puppy (it’s an e-book, I’ll pop a link at the end of this post) is an extreme e-book, it states quite happily that unless you keep things perfect, your dog will have problems: it skips the nicey-nice of training and tells you the facts. Every dog is born as a blank canvas, to which their new owners can paint a picture, and if you don’t want any problems later on in this picture, then you have a lot of work ahead of you. A lot of the problems that rescue dog’s have could have been so easily sorted when they were puppies- take this for example. A dog is brought into rescue after having been boisterous with the children, he barks at everything, he’s getting “too much”, and “doesn’t obey” his owners, they really can’t take anymore. Fast track back to six months ago, had they taught their puppy to be gentler with their children, had they taught their puppy that whatever it is barking at really isn’t a threat and I would put in my two pence that their situation would have rosier now.
People just don’t quite understand the responsibility they are taking on with a puppy, and Dunbar is not shy about pointing that out. The prospect still makes me nervous I have to say!
So far, my chart is broken down into weeks with various topics under each week- namely week eight to sixteen so far, but with the wonders of technology I’m sure I can extend it a few more weeks. The basic theory is that every week, you aim to introduce her to as many objects as possible in various topics. So, different types of flooring - gravel, grass, carpet, wooden flooring, cement, sand for example- each experience has to be positive, and not forced. We’ll go over to the sand, or whichever, say something along the lines of "sand, yay, sand", and act as excited about sand as we can- that sand has to be a pleasant experience. I’m sure we’ll look like daft lunatics, but we have a bad habit of looking slightly strange already, so getting excited about puppy feet landing on sand won’t be that much of a change!
Of course, there are other topics, such as people - men, women, fat people, thin people, kids, babies, toddlers, children playing, people wearing glasses, people with beards, elderly people, people wearing motorcycle helmets, people with umbrellas, people with walking sticks- needless to say, it’s a long list! Another topic of ours is places- vets, roadsides (quiet), roadsides (noisy), friend's houses, groomers, shops, train station, bus station, schools, parks, boarding kennels etc – on the note of the vets/groomers/kennels we intend to take Dossy in without having anything ‘bad’ happening. It’s a matter of just taking her in- make her sit down and see the hussle- let her watch the world go by, and then hopefully the vet’s won’t be this big scary place that we kick our heels in about.
There’s a topic on animals- cats, small animals, rabbits, birds, livestock, horses and of course other dogs. What I can’t emphasise enough however is to control your puppy's experiences with other dogs if needs be, use a friend's friendly dog, or wait until puppy classes. Whatever you do, do not just walk down the street- and pick the first dog you find to introduce it to, you do not want one of your puppie's first experiences being at the end of a snarling, biting older dog. A bad experience can really put a puppy off – if things aren’t looking positive then know when to take a step back before attempting it again.
One important topic for us was ‘at home’ – it has to be one of our widest topics (bar humans): vacuum cleaner, tumble dryer, hair dryer, grooming- including but not limited to brushing, nails, checking ears, trimming paw pads, checking teeth (although raw will help quite a bit with this), having a bath, being left alone, toys which are not to be played with, stairs, the tele, etc, etc. I’m sure I’ll add to this list as we go along, but for now you get the picture. As our breeder will be raising Dossie in the home, she will be used to the majority of these things from a very early age, but there’s no such thing as over socialisation!
Noises is VERY important one, you don't want your dog fearful of every pin drop, nor do I want Dossy barking every time the television comes on. Storm, Matt’s German Sheppard, hated sports being on the television, and every time it was on he would run around the living room making as much noise as possible: something we’d like to avoid with MS-Dos. So, noises- clapping, shouting, whistleing, music - rock, music - classical, television - animals on the tele, sports on the tele - darts, swimming, football, rugby, wrestling (loud commentators), people cheering, people singing, laughing, loud bangs (eg fireworks), cars, car horns, radio etc, etc.
We have objects as our fifth topic: skateboards, pushchairs, prams, the car, the back seat of the car, the ironing board, bikes, scooters, the vacuum cleaner (THE scariest thing to a dog we’ve found- Jack HATES the vacuum cleaner, as did Storm and Frazer), umbrellas and walking sticks so far. Finally, my last topic at the moment is transport: car, bus, train, walking, being carried and motorbikes.
I’m sure we’ve only just scratched the surface on this list. Essentially, whenever we have made Sure Dossie has had a positive experience with each of the subjects on this list, we'll tick it off. We're going to aim for her to meet everything at least five times- that way she shouldn't batter an eyelid by the end of it. Our motto will be to make everything positive- carry a bundle of treats with us, and (hopefully) thatmake the world a less scary place.
It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but we do have a plan. We’re going to camp out at parks, outside our local school, in cafes on the promenade, in cafes in town and that’s not to mention dragging our friend’s around for a session of ‘meet the puppy’. We’ve also booked Dos into puppy training classes, as well as ring craft and hopefully we will also be able to do the Kennel Club Good Citizen’s award with her (when we find a local club that does it). It looks like we’re all going to be busy bees once she does arrive- no more pillow days for us.
Oh well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to every moment of it!
Just one link at the end of this post: